ST. GEORGE — Despite a federal government shutdown, Utah officials plan to underwrite the costs of maintaining “business as usual” at the state’s most popular national parks through the holidays. Grand Canyon National Park will also remain accessible with limited services thanks to financial support from the state of Arizona.
According to a statement issued by the Utah Office of Tourism, the state will provide support to keep frontline visitor services open at Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks.
The move comes in the face of a shutdown of approximately 25 percent of federal agencies and services resulting from a stalemate among lawmakers in the District of Columbia over funding for a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We take great pride in our hospitality and want visitors who come to Utah’s Mighty Five national parks during the Christmas holiday to have a safe, clean and enjoyable experience,” Gov. Gary Herbert said in the statement. “Many travelers have planned their visit for months in advance and have traveled from all over the world to be here. We want them to return home with memories of magnificent vistas and welcoming people, not locked doors.”
At the national level, the U.S. Department of the Interior cautions visitors that all park activities are suspended “except for those that are essential to respond to emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.” However, the state of Utah has opted to go beyond maintaining basic access by working with the National Park Service to maintain the costs of staffing visitor centers and maintaining custodial services at Arches, Bryce Canyon and Zion.
“This is the third time this year we have experienced a shutdown. While the federal government faces another impasse, the State of Utah and Utah’s Federal Land Managers are committed to safe, high-quality access for all visitors to America’s public lands,” Tom Adams, director of Utah’s Office of Outdoor Recreation, said in the statement.
Besides the three national parks, all of Utah’s 14 ski resorts, including those operating on U.S. Forest Service lands, will remain open with no disruptions. All 44 state parks are unaffected by the federal shutdown and are fully staffed and open for visitation.
See below for specific information about services available at Zion and Grand Canyon national parks.
According to a news release issued by the National Park Service, Zion National Park will remain operational to a limited degree through at least Dec. 29, thanks to the state’s donated funds.
No entrance fees will be collected during the shutdown. Park roads, lookouts and trails, except those around Kolob Canyons, will remain accessible to visitors pending weather events, but emergency and rescue services will be limited.
The shuttle service will be running, weather permitting, 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the park and 8:10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Springdale. The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive will be closed to all vehicles except shuttles and Zion Lodge guests with permits. The Zion Lodge will be open with usual offerings.
The Zion Canyon Visitor Center, one loop of the Watchman Campground and adjacent restrooms will remain open. All park programs have been canceled, including scheduled ranger talks and evening programs.
New permits will not be issued, but those that have already been issued will be honored. Otherwise, visitors should not enter backcountry permit-only areas.
“Please be aware that the park staffing will be minimal and visitors need to be careful and take responsibility for their own safety,” Zion spokeswoman Aly Baltrus said. “We also ask that visitors help park staff protect Zion’s resources by following rules and notifying us of any visitors who are not.”
Park service social media and websites are not being monitored or regularly updated and may not reflect current conditions.
The State of Arizona has provided donated funding to assist in keeping Grand Canyon National Park open and accessible to visitors. The funding will be used for trash collection, custodial services for restrooms and snow removal on trails and sidewalks.
Park roads, lookouts and trails at Grand Canyon National Park will remain accessible to visitors. Highway 67 to the North Rim of Grand Canyon remains closed for the season.
Entrance stations to the park will be open but will not be staffed for fee collection. Most public restrooms in the park will remain open for visitor use.
Visitor services provided by park concessioners and other entities will also remain open and operational, including lodging, restaurants and food service, grocery stores, retail locations, bicycle rental, concessioner-provided tours and park shuttle operations.
However, National Park Service-staffed visitor centers and contact stations will not be open, and no ranger-led programs or tours will be provided.
The park’s Backcountry Information Center will be closed. Visitors with previously issued permits for backcountry camping or river trips on the Colorado River may proceed as permitted, but no new permits will be issued during this time.
Park-operated campgrounds will remain open, but reservation services will not be provided. Visitors in these campgrounds will not be asked to leave unless required due to safety concerns. Visitors holding campground reservations should be aware that there is no guarantee their reserved campsite will be ready and available should they arrive during the government shutdown.
For more information about the shutdown’s impact on the National Park Service, visit the Department of the Interior’s shutdown website.
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